Baladi (My Country) 2011 attempt to gain the vote for women.
women2drive, held throughout 2013 in an attempt to give Saudi women the right to get a driving licence.
World gender equality ranking: 34th out of 187 countries (Gender Inequality Index-Human Development Report 2014)
Women in the workforce: 18.2% (same as above, 2012)
The level of gender inequality in Saudi Arabia is really astounding. Due to the strict Islamic rules, women are not permitted to leave the country without permission from their male guardian, either their husband or their father. There are rules about where they can eat, work, shop and use a bank. Many workplaces, banks and restaurants are divided into two, male and female sections. Women are only allowed to work in shops that are for women, such as lingerie shops. It is against the law for them to be accompanied by a man who is not a close relative.
The dress code in the country is also very strict. Women must wear full length, long-sleeved robes when out in public and many cover their face and hair with scarves or headdresses. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and they are only allowed on motorbikes and bicycles when wearing traditional clothing and accompanied by a male relative. Women are discouraged from playing sport, 2012 was the first year that Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics. When the two Saudi women competed at London, neither of their performances were broadcast on Saudi television.
In 2015, Saudi women were first allowed to vote for candidates and run for nominations to the Shura Council, one of the king’s advisory bodies. Although it was a huge advance on the gender equality situation it still left many women either fully or partially dependent on their male guardians.
One example of just how dependent they are is the new system that has recently been put in place in regard to women leaving the country. Now, every time a Saudi woman leaves the country their guardian is instantly alerted via an SMS text.
Saudi Arabia’s attitude to women is equal in one way only, they are all infantilised equally. The concept of ‘tethering’ a fully-grown woman to someone else as if she was a child is not only ridiculous, it is a clear violation of the human rights of every single woman in the country. The situation would be funny if it wasn’t so humiliating and backward. On a more positive note, the change in the Shura Council has provided the potential for more progress now that women can have their voices heard.
What are your opinions on this issue? Any comments from residents in, or visitors to Saudi Arabia would be much appreciated.